What networking and performance reviews will look like in 2021

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that predicting the future is practically impossible.

The COVID-19 pandemic derailed any personal or professional goals that were set at the start of the new decade. The promise of the New Year quickly became a mandatory quarantine which changed the way in which we work for the future.

Out went the in-person meetings and in came the rise of virtual meetings. Zoom fatigue became an epidemic in office culture, while companies have adapted toward remote working (and in some cases, implemented permanently).

Return dates to the office remain murky as companies continue to push back dates until a vaccine is available. The commute remains sacrificed and quick jolts around the block are hard to come by before at-home responsibilities like childcare creep in the way of Excel spreadsheets.

With a second wave of the coronavirus knocking on the door, what exactly should workers expect heading into 2021?

The new normal at work

Whether it’s planning your next job search or sticking around hoping for a promotion at your current company, these uncertainties are on-par for what 2020 has done to create this new norm.

The anxieties of keeping your head down or carving out a new path in your career will continue to be there, but a little navigation heading into 2021 could help especially knowing what to expect when applying for a new job or making an argument for more responsibilities and money at your current job.

Ashley Stahl, a career expert at SoFi, an online personal finance company, recently spoke to Ladders outlining two key drivers to be mindful of when planning ahead of 2021: networking and job performance reviews.

Networking in 2021

Perhaps more than ever, networking has become the secret most important piece to finding your next job. Networking can always feel soul-crushing and bit awkward at times.

With limitations to in-person gatherings and after-work coffees, networking in the coronavirus age has been shifted digitally to online career platforms that essentially make it feel like cold calling a home during an election.

Getting over networking anxiety starts with actually doing it (trust me, it’ll make you feel good once you send that first email), but there’s something to be said about how important it is in this current job climate.

With jobs being shifted remotely, candidates are no longer competing with local talent which means job applications are coming from all over meaning it’s more competitive than ever when applying for a job, according to Stahl.

“The only way to actually standout is networking. People have to remember that companies do not want to go through the hiring process and post it online — it’s more work for them,” Stahl told us. “That’s why they have incentives like giving employees bonuses for finding talent… For you to apply for jobs online, you’re admitting to yourself that you’re showing up in a system that is their last call to get candidates and last line of defense.”

Stahl recommended cold networking is still an option on jobs websites to connect with workers and get your foot in the door, but she also said there’s room to play with on social media.

Places like Twitter or Instagram could seem like unconventional places to network but it can also be a more personal way of introducing yourself and connecting on something other than work.

“I love the idea of creating a personal brand on social media,” she said. “I’ve had massive success seeing clients of mine direct message companies or employees at companies straight from Instagram or tweeting at them… I think it’s important for people to keep up with that if they want a new job.”

The new performance reviews

Remember when every year or so an email would pop into your inbox asking you to evaluate your performance over the last year? These were often subjective and could have been marred by personal triumphs in the physical office like brainstorming a big idea or beating a tough deadline. But since these areas of collaboration have been limited due to COVID-19, how you are judged on performance will come based on data.

Yes, analytics is here in the office.

No matter where you work, whether in sales or big tech, the switch from in-person to virtual means an increased focused in data, according to Stahl. That means there’s no room for brownie points: if you want a promotion or increased wages, it’ll have to come based on data.

“It might not be unusual in the future of work for you to have an app that your company is paying for that [rates employees],” she said. “At the end of the year, it’s going to be an influence. You will also see employees have their computer screens monitored. With the rise of remote work comes the question of responsibility… Promotions are going to be so much more data centric and you’re really going to have to work to get them.”

She named three types of software — Vevox, PollEv, and Officevibe — that are being used to evaluate employees’ experiences virtually. The coronavirus pandemic has left some employees exposed as their skills haven’t adapted to the digital workforce.

In the big picture, this could mean monumental changes — for the better, Stahl said.

“This could be the solution to the gender pay gap in the United States,” she said. “I’m seeing that remote female staff are seeing the largest merit increases over any other group. Something about making them remote and physically not seeing their faces that the results and data are actually translating.”